Outdoor air mattress – what to look for?

Insta-Bed Queen Raised Sure Grip ReviewOk, you know how they say it’s best to learn from your own mistakes? This is the logic behind this guide – offering you the chance to learn from my mistakes when choosing an outdoor air mattress, and believe-you-me I’ve made quite a few of those over the years.

No, my friend, you don’t want any of that when it comes to camping or anything happening in the great outdoors. It’s just asking for trouble, especially if you are into light hiking and real adventures.

What you do want is a trusty outdoor air mattress that won’t fail you in the middle of the night, won’t tear or leak air. One that will provide a pleasant sleeping experience.

Good news is I’m here to help you by making this instant guide, giving you all the knowledge you’ll ever need compiled in one convenient little package. So if you’re not about to go all Bear Grills on me by all means continue reading.

Why should you listen to me?

Well, if my years of experience in camping and writing reviews and blogs about camping equipment count for anything, I guess it’s a good place to start. I’ve also learned all there is about the industry so I can not only point out the good things, but also the common pitfalls.

All of my writing comes from contacts with real life campers and gathering their experience. One could say most of my articles were based on mistakes of others. So please, don’t let my next article be about a guy who chose the wrong air mattress for their camping trip. It won’t if I have a say in it.

Quick content rundown

So let’s see real quick how will this little talk of ours look like.

  • I will give you some basic things to look for and some common pitfalls when it comes to outdoor air mattresses.
  • Then I’ll mention some accessories you might want, scratch that that you’ll definitely want.
  • We’ll talk about important features and what makes them so important.

In the end, I’ll give you a little summary, just to keep in mind everything that’s of any relevance.

Sounds good? Let’s go campers!

Back to basics

Let’s go through some of the important things every camper should bear in mind:

AirBedz Lite Full Size

  • First of all you can use you outdoor air mattress to sleep in a tent or the back of your SUV or truck. In both cases, the space is quite limited so you’ll want to pick the perfect size for your sleeping area. If you’re going with SUV or truck model just check your brand of vehicle online and find a matching mattress. If you’re sleeping in a tent however, you have a wide array of choices, going from standard to king size.
  • If you don’t like sleeping so close to the ground, you have the option of buying a raised air mattress. They are available in different heights (16 to 22”) to provide you with perfect elevated sleeping surface. It goes without saying that you’ll need a bigger tent for this bad boy.
  • Some of the air mattresses and mostly all air beds for camping include a special raised cushion for your head. It’s built into the mattress, and it inflates with it. We call these mattresses “pillow top” mattresses. They save you the trouble of bringing your own pillow to the party.
  • Flocking on top of the mattress is much more important than you might think. Flocking means there are fine fiber strands on top of the mattress that give it a velvety, plush surface. It’s useful because it keeps covers and sleeping bags from sliding off the mattress.
  • The top surface of your mattress can be dimpled or tufted, featuring coil construction or pillar construction. It means that the bottom and the top surface of the mattress are connected by cylindrical fabric pieces inside the inflatable air chamber. It provides even distance between the bottom and the top of the mattress when it’s fully inflated.
  • You can also get yourself a special frame to put your mattress on, and elevate it from the ground. It’s an accordion style fold usually consisting of the legs set that follow your mattress length and width wise. It’s not as stable as a solid ground though, and if you put a raised air mattress on it, you’re destined for some wobbly experience, so keep it real.
  • One more thing here. Although the air mattresses are a great cushion, they are poor insulators. On a cold night, a large air cavity underneath you will transfer your body heat to the ground, making you shiver in your sleeping bag. Nothing an extra foam topper can’t handle though.

Let’s talk features, quality and accessories

Ok, here’s what we want:

  • Built-in air pump is a must. You can’t inflate it by breathing into it or with some ordinary pump you have lying around. So you need this feature, just plug it into your car’s energy socket or buy a battery operated one, and you’re good to go.
  • You want a mattress with heavy-duty seams and fabric, you’re using it outdoors after all. You’ll want to know it’s puncture resistant.
  • Make sure your mattress doesn’t leak air. Everything else is irrelevant if it fails on this field.
  • Just one word: WATERPROOF, make sure it is.
  • The more inflatable air chambers it has, the more comfortable it will be, and better support it will provide. Enough said.
  • If you’re just starting out as a camper and don’t want to burn a lot of money on your first mattress no problem, go for the cheaper version. Just make sure you test it first. Buy it, leave it inflated overnight with some weight on it and see what happens. If it deflates, return it immediately and try again.
  • 2 main accessories you’ll want are stuff-sack and a patch kit. Stuff-sack is just a good idea for easy transport and if you ever encounter something pointy and sharp you’ll want that patch kit so bad.

Quick summary (just the important stuff)

So what did we learn today?

  1. First, you’ll pick the best air mattress for the outdoors use by knowing exactly what you need. You can get raised mattress or frame for elevation and the one with incorporated pillow top.
  2. Get one with proper flocking and even inflation and support.
  3. Get proper insulation if the weather is a bit cooler.
  4. You’ll want a built-in air pump, sturdy, high-quality construction and no air leakage.
  5. It should be waterproof, with as many air chambers and in sync with your budget.
  6. Carrying bag and a patch kit are always a good idea and then some…

There we have it, a few simple tips that might save you a lot of trouble. Or a toe for that matter…

Happy camping and sleep tight.


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James Menta

Camping Gear Reviewer at BestAirMattressGuide.com
Three things you need to know about James - he holds a degree in Materials Technology from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, he is a zealot for the great outdoors and he can never find his glasses.       In brief intermissions between looking for his glasses, he is the Editor-in-chief of BestAirMattressGuide.com.

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